A mother who admitted stabbing her three children to death at their home in Edinburgh after a bitter custody dispute has been jailed for 16 years.
Theresa Riggi, 47, originally from California, pleaded guilty in March to killing her children – eight-year-old twins Austin and Gianluca, and their sister Cecilia, five – at their home in west Edinburgh.
She stabbed each of them eight times and then allegedly tried to cover up their deaths with a gas explosion, before trying to kill herself by leaping out of their second-floor flat. Riggi was facing court action for custody by her estranged husband, Pasquale Riggi, an oil industry engineer in Aberdeen.
Passing sentence at the high court in Glasgow, Lord Bracadale told Riggi she had subjected her children to "a truly disturbing degree of violence" and was guilty of a "ghastly and grotesque" act.
The judge said Riggi had "a genuine but abnormal and possessive love" for her children.
The court heard in March that Riggi suffered from narcissistic, paranoid and hysterical personality disorders, had refused to allow her husband to share a bed with her and the children, and had been increasingly possessive. The couple separated soon after Cecilia was born.
Psychiatrists did not, however, believe she was mentally ill, the judge said. "The result of these acts is a devastating family tragedy. The father of the children, Pasquale Riggi, and the wider family, have been left utterly bereft by the loss of the children."
The prosecution accepted Riggi's plea of culpable homicide, the Scottish version of manslaughter, on the basis of diminished responsibility in March. Charges accusing her of recklessly causing an explosion by tampering with her home's gas cooker were set aside.
Bracadale said this plea and her mental state did not absolve her of blame. "The effect of the diminished responsibility is to reduce these crimes from what would have been exceptionally wicked crimes of murder to what are still very serious crimes of culpable homicide," he said.
"The number and nature of the stab wounds to each child is indicative of a truly disturbing degree of violence, which, in order to bring about the deaths of three children, must have been sustained over a significant period of time.
"It is difficult to envisage the physical commission of such acts. Dr Crichton [a psychiatrist] considers that the degree of violence and the sustained nature of it are inexplicable in terms of your disorder of the mind.
"It is clear that any degree of responsibility for such ghastly and grotesque acts must be visited with a lengthy sentence of imprisonment."
Outside the court, in a statement read out on his behalf by David Sinclair, of Victim Support Scotland, Pasquale Riggi said his children's deaths would leave an "indelible mark on the rest of his life".He added: "They were such wonderful, energetic, bright and happy children. Those of us who had the pleasure of knowing Cecilia, Luke and Austin looked forward to watching them grow.
"There is no justification for this heinous crime, repeated three times, nor is there any sentence that can provide justice for the overwhelming loss of three lives and the subsequent painful grief and devastation caused to surviving family and friends."Bracadale said that Riggi would have been sentenced to 18 years in prison, but he added a discount of two years following her guilty plea. He told Riggi she would be deported as soon as her sentence was completed, and placed on the child protection register.
The children's bodies were discovered side by side minutes after a gas explosion at their home in Slateford, west Edinburgh. Passersby saw Riggi clamber over the second-floor balcony of the building and throw herself off. Her fall was broken by a neighbour, who managed to push her falling body on to a parked car. Riggi had several self-inflicted wounds.
Donald Findlay QC, her defence counsel, told the court in March that Riggi was "in the midst of an acute stress reaction" at the time of the murders.
"Theresa Riggi is not evil, she is not wicked, she is not a monster. If it is possible to love one's children too much, she loved them too much. [She] believed the children and she were safer together in death than they ever could be in life," he said.
The court heard in March that Riggi had been due to attend a hearing on the children's future the day before they were killed. The court of session, Scotland's civil court, had already seized Riggi's passport and appointed a child psychologist.
Alex Prentice QC, for the prosecution, said that several days before the deaths, she had told a friend that things were so bad he would "hear about it on the national news". Two days before the explosion, Riggi had accused her husband during a telephone conversation of being in collusion with their solicitors and asked if he would take the children away. After he told her she "left him no choice", Riggi retorted, "say goodbye, then", and hung up the phone.